Oakland Warehouse Owner Speaks Out About Deadly Fire: "My Heart Is Broken"
"This tragic event consumes me every moment."
Derick Almena, the proprietor of the Oakland, Calif., warehouse commonly known as the "Ghost Ship" where more than 35 people lost their lives in a massive fire last weekend, has spoken out about the tragedy.
Initially, Almena took to Facebook to confirm that the blaze had destroyed "everything I worked so hard for." With the death toll rising throughout the night, Almena received some angry responses to his seemingly insensitive post. But come Monday morning, the warehouse owner wanted to make it known that he didn't understand the gravity of the fire when he wrote his initial post.
"In my previous Facebook post, I had no idea there was a loss of life," Almena said in a statement to NBC Bay Area. "This tragic event consumes me every moment. My heart is broken. My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends who have suffered the loss of loved ones."
Posted in a Marriott hotel in the area, Almena and his wife Micah were approached by another news crew Sunday night for an interview he hadn't agreed to. But after Almena was asked what he'd like to say to the families who had lost their loved ones, he opened up: "They're my children. They're my friends, they're my family, they're my loves, they're my future," Almena told ABC 7 News San Francisco. "What else do I have to say?"
As of Monday morning, authorities had searched about 70 percent of the warehouse premises, but Oakland Fire Department spokesperson Chief Teresa DeLoach Reed said they have yet to come close to determining the cause of the fire or identifying all of the victims. Almena was already on probation for another incident involving stolen property and remains so until 2019.
Watch Almena's brief interview below.
This article originally appeared on Billboard.com.